Luciana Contuzzi '13, founder of zest, and Victor Ricci '17, founder and CEO of Trend Pie, will be honored at Seton Hall's 12th annual Entrepreneur Hall of Fame Induction Dinner on September 27. The two young alumni will each receive the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies' Emerging Entrepreneur Award.
Luciana Contuzzi '13 graduated from Seton Hall University with a bachelor's degree in finance and information technology management and was a member of the Stillman School's Gerald P. Buccino '63 Center for Leadership Development. In 2010, when she was a Stillman freshman, she won first place in the inaugural Pirates Pitch startup competition. Upon graduation, Contuzzi received numerous full-time job offers, and opted to work at a technology firm. However, she soon realized that her true calling was being her own boss.
Inspired by her childhood growing up in a food-centered Italian household, Contuzzi founded zest, a gluten and dairy free baked goods business based out of a commercial kitchen. Three years later, she opened a café in her hometown of Fairfield, N.J. Contuzzi's goal is to create delicious and nutritious meals, snacks and desserts that are free of gluten and dairy and full of taste for everyone to enjoy.
"I love being able to test recipes, run payroll and post on social media, all in a day's work. Being an entrepreneur is nonstop, but it is the most amazing adventure I could have ever dreamed of. The faculty at the Stillman School, and the opportunities I had as a student to network with alumni entrepreneurs helped to bring out my inner entrepreneur and taught me much more than any textbook alone could."
Contuzzi joined the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies Board of Advisors in 2017 and has been a guest lecturer at the Stillman School.
Victor Ricci '17 studied marketing at the Stillman School, and was a member of the Seton Hall University men's varsity cross-country team for four years. In April 2015, Ricci launched Trend Pie, a social media and digital marketing startup from his dorm room. Within two years, the company generated over $1 million in revenues and had an outreach to more than 250 million consumers.
Ricci got the idea for Trend Pie after creating a short video of an easy way he had discovered to separate egg whites and yolks when making egg-white omelets. The video showed him using a water bottle to suction cup the yolk from the egg, leaving only the whites. He posted this to a "Vine" account he named, "@QuickLifeHacks," which then quickly grew to have 1.4 million followers. Soon, companies were contacting Ricci to show their products on his social media platform as a form of advertising. They offered to pay him anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 per advertising campaign.
Ricci took the idea a step further and decided to engage companies to run advertising campaigns which utilized other Internet influencers. Thus, Trend Pie was born. Ricci's company offers regular, lower cost placements on the accounts of multiple social media influencers. He says the result is more successful for his clients, and a more regular revenue stream for the influencers. He has four employees who all work remotely to keep the business running.
"When I started, I didn't know how to run a company," he said. "Everyone has ideas, but most people don't act on them because they are too busy with other things. Sometimes you just need to take that first step."
Ricci is a regular guest speaker in Stillman's entrepreneurship classes.
During the celebratory dinner, scholarships will also be awarded to three entrepreneurship students:
- Anthony Laverde - Junior, Entrepreneurship and Marketing
- John Conway - MBA Candidate, Finance and Supply Chain Management
- Alissa L. Lopez - MBA Candidate, Marketing
In addition, the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies will induct Abe Kasbo, founder and CEO of Verasoni Worldwide as well as executive-producer and director of the award-winning documentary "The Arab-Americans," and Ralph, M.S.'98, CPA, CGMA and Marylee R. Evangelista CPA, CVA , co-managing members of Frazer, Evangelista and Company, into the University's Entrepreneur Hall of Fame.